2 min read

Season 5, Episode 109

Eliminating mental health and addiction stigma starts with education

Carelon and Shatterproof Gray


Guest Name:

Dr. James Polo | Gary Mendell

Guest Website:

Carelon Behavioral Health


Guest Social Media:





Supportive Documents:

Shatterproof's Addiction Language Guide

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, the America’s Work Force Union Podcast’s coverage continues with Dr. James Polo, Chief Medical Officer for Carelon Behavioral Health, and Gary Mendell, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Shatterproof. The two discussed how substance use and mental health issues impacted their families, what they are doing now to help those suffering from addiction and eliminating the stigma around mental health care conversations.

Mendell talked about his son dying after a substance addiction. Like many families in America, the addiction led to his son dying by suicide. He discussed how that led him to seek out a potential solution. With his experience, Mendell was driven to help families address these issues and hopefully help those suffering from addiction and mental health problems recover and live a successful life. He talked about the research done but never accumulated because no major organization was working to collect and analyze the research on addiction and potential recovery solutions. In response, Mendell left his job and founded Shatterproof, a company focused on the prevention and treatment of addiction with science-backed solutions and compassion, without any of the shame and stigma typically surrounding addiction.

Dr. Polo discussed his own experience, but his daughter was able to recover from her addiction. He discussed his journey as a physician and how the medical system has led many doctors to think about mental health and addiction as a defect. In fact, 65 percent of doctors don’t believe addiction is a disease. His opinion changed when his daughter was suffering from her addictions, and his feeling of loss while trying to assist her led him to want to change the way the medical industry treats those with addiction and mental health diseases. Dr. Polo found himself with Carelon, focused on helping all adults build resilience and learn when to ask for help. Carelon is a company focused on driving innovation and best practices for behavioral health care.

With a large number of union members, especially construction workers, who get injured on the job and often become addicted to prescription drugs, knowing how and being able to have difficult conversations is important. Together, Shatterproof and Carelon are working to eliminate the stigma around mental health and addiction. One of the most difficult parts of their work is implementing methods that can help those with addiction recover and improve their mental health. The two groups have developed a curriculum for health professionals that will run a trial with 3,000 doctors, If successful, it will be scaled across the country. Mendell and Dr. Polo are hopeful this program can help workers avoid many of the current pitfalls in the medical system that lead to addiction and, eventually, mental health issues by improving doctors’ awareness about potential solutions.

Listen to the show above to hear more from Dr. Polo and Mendell on their work to eliminate the stigma around addiction and mental health care. Please visit Shatterproof's website for access to the proper language guide for addiction.

America’s Work Force is the only daily labor podcast in the US and has been on the air since 1993, supplying listeners with useful, relevant input into their daily lives through fact-finding features, in-depth interviews, informative news segments and practical consumer reports. America’s Work Force is committed to providing an accessible venue in which America's workers and their families can hear discussion on important, relevant topics such as employment, healthcare, legislative action, labor-management relations, corporate practices, finances, local and national politics, consumer reports and labor issues.

America’s Work Force Union Podcast is brought to you in part by our sponsors: AFL-CIO, American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of Musicians Local 4, American Alliance for Manufacturing, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, Communication Workers of America, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 50, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Crafts, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 6, Ironworkers Great Lakes District Council, The Labor Citizen newspaper, Laborers International Union of The National Labor Office of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, North America, North Coast Area Labor Federation, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Survey and Ballot Systems, United Labor Agency, United Steelworkers.


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